Shakuntala Devi is India’s mathematical genius. At the age of three, she was playing cards. By the time she was five, she had become an expert at solving math problems. Thereafter her father soon realised that she was a mathematical prodigy. Not just India, the entire world as in awe of her mathematical skills. Once she extracted the twenty three root of a 201-digit number in fifty seconds and did beat a computer, which took sixty two seconds. In 1980 at Imperial college Landon, she multiplied two thirteen-digit numbers in only twenty eight seconds. This earned her a place in the 1982 edition of the Guinness Book of World Records. She wrote extensively on mathematics, puzzles and astrology. She was also a successful astrologer, Cookbook author and novelist. Even though she is not in our midst anymore her incredible skill and the works did continue to inspire the world. Shakuntala Devi explained many of the methods, that she used to do mental calculations through, in her book ‘Figuring: The Joy of Numbers’, that is still in print.
She returned to India from USA in the mid-1960s and got married to Mr. Paritosh Banerji, an officer of the Indian Administrative Service from Kolkata. They were divorced in 1979. In 1980, she contested in the Lok Sabha elections as an independent candidate form Mumbai South. She also wrote a book entitled ‘The Worlds of Homosexuals’. This book is considered to be the first study of Homosexuality in India. In the documentary “For Straights Only”, she said that her interest in the topic came out of her marriage to a homosexual man and her desire to look at homosexuality more closely to understand it.
Hence Shakuntala Devi, the great mathematical genius that she was, very aptly called as the ‘Human Computer’. She died in 2013 leaving behind the legacy of a great human being and that of a successful woman.